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A radar detector can be an invaluable automotive accessory for those of us who may have a bit of a lead foot, as getting caught in a speed trap can really put a damper on your day, not to mention a dent in your bank account. This is where having a reliable and sensitive radar detector can come in very handy. Radar detectors run the gamut when it comes to options, reliability, and prices, and it can be confusing trying to figure out which one will be best for you. Don’t worry—we’ve got you covered with our comprehensive product review and our in-depth buying guide that will teach you all you need to know to be certain you’re getting the right radar detector.
This is where having a reliable and sensitive radar detector can come in very handy. Designed to sense and alert you to speed traps and radar guns, a high-tech radar detector can save you a lot of headaches. But how do you know which one is best?
Radar detectors run the gamut when it comes to options, reliability, and prices. It can be confusing trying to figure out which one will be best for you. Don’t worry, we’ve got you covered with our comprehensive product review and our in-depth buying guide that will teach you all you need to know to be certain you’re getting the right radar detector.
I want you to be honest with yourself: You probably speed. A few miles an hour over the posted speed limit here, a few miles per hour there. I know I have. Each and every day we drive we run the risk of seeing those flashing blue lights in our rearview mirrors. But what can we do about it? If you’re like me, you get a radar detector.
These cool little sensor gathering devices are legal in 49 states (sorry Virginians and those in Washington, D.C) and help let you know when police are nearby actively looking for speeding cars. Over the past few decades, the technology has advanced, and modern radar detectors are a great countermeasure to save you hundreds of dollars in tickets and fees. To reduce the chances of tickets breaking the bank, I rounded up some of the best radar detectors. Here are the ones I’d recommend to anyone looking for peace of mind while driving.
- Best range
- MRCD detection range
- Not immune to police radar detector detectors (RDD)
- Auto lockout issues
- Best range for mid-tier detectors
- Bluetooth connectivity for updates and setting adjustments
- No arrows for directional information
- Nexus Bluetooth connectivity only available on Android, not Apple iOS
Escort Redline 360C
- Auto lockout feature is best in class
- Invisible to all radar detector detectors
- Wi-Fi connectivity for apps and updates
- Several cheaper detectors have longer range and responsiveness
Note: The author, The Drive, and its affiliates do not condone or endorse speeding. Drive safely.
Radar detectors are something of a mystery to many people and their synonymous relationship with nefarious driving habits can make finding reliable information on these devices difficult. I used The Drive’s gear review methodology in an effort to inform you regarding the best radar detectors available today. The information gathered for these products mentioned in the article come not only from the manufacturer’s websites, but also from independent testing (thank you, Vortex Radar) and expert opinions were taken into account to verify manufacturer claims. I used my personal experience with several brands of radar detectors over the past six years to give context over which features and capabilities have been most important to me and helped me use these detectors for their intended function.
For my evaluation, detector range, responsiveness, and ease of use were my most important criteria for choosing the best detectors on the market. While other features such as auto GPS lockouts, blind spot monitoring (BSM) false alert filtering, and low-speed muting are important, they are not weighed as heavily for evaluation as they are not absolutely crucial to the core function of a radar detector.
Custom installed radar detectors were also not considered, as they cost thousands of dollars, require extensive work done by a professional shop for installation, and incorporate the use of laser jammers, which is illegal in a number of states. Any radar detector under $300 was ruled out, as I have found that detectors in this price range are not top performers and often will not give you enough time to adjust your speed prior to a speed trap recording your speed.
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Best Radar Detector Reviews & Recommendations
- Antenna: Dual front/rear antennas
- Connectivity: Pending Bluetooth functionality
- Among the most consistent long range detection for radar detectors
- Superior MRCD radar detection range
- Consistent, accurate and smooth ramp up of radar detection
- K Block feature helps minimize false alerts from BSM systems
- GPS auto lockouts are still not fully functional, requiring manual lockouts
- No Bluetooth or Wi-Fi connectivity makes firmware updates more difficult
- Not immune to Spectre Radar Detector Detectors (RDD)
Best ValueCheck Latest Price
- Antenna: Single front antenna
- Connectivity: Nexus Android App (iOS app not currently available)
- Detection range is comparable to flagship radar detectors at double the price
- Class-leading MRCD radar detection range
- Nexus Android app allows for easy firmware updates, and setting changes
- K Notch feature helps minimize false alerts from BSM systems
- No arrows for directional information on radar signals due to only one antenna
- Nexus Bluetooth connectivity only available on Android, not Apple iOS
- Not immune to Spectre Radar Detector Detectors (RDD)
Honorable MentionCheck Latest Price
- Antenna: Triple antenna (two front, one rear)
- Connectivity: Wi-Fi (Escort live app)
- Easy to use UI and software allow for plug and play design with minimal adjustments
- Immune to police Spectre radar detector detectors (RDD)
- Escort Live App allows for detector network, ease of updating firmware and settings
- Triple antenna design allows for accurate and long distance 360-degree radar detection
- Currently the most expensive detector on the market
- Lacks the range and responsiveness of detectors at half its price
Our Verdict on Radar Detectors
If I were to summarize my recommendations on the top radar detectors as mentioned above: If you want a no hassle detector that does everything well, with all the features you want and you don’t care about the price: I would get the Escort Redline 360C. If you want an outstanding detector on a budget and don’t need directional arrows: I would get the Radenso DS1. If you want the best all-around performing detector: I would get the Uniden R7. I firmly believe these represent the best radar detectors on the market that fit a variety of budgets.
What to Consider When Buying Radar Detectors
Radar detectors come packed with different features and designs. Here are some basics about radar detectors I think you should know about from my experience using them over the past six years.
Types of Radar Detectors
This is the traditional setup for radar detectors or today’s mid-tier detectors. In these detectors, only one forward-facing antenna is built in to pick up radar signals. This does not affect distance, as the design and build quality of the antenna and the horn (its housing) are what helps most with range and sensitivity. The upsides to this type of detectors is simplicity and generally lower cost, as well as reduced size. The downside to single antenna detectors is that the detector will not be able to determine which direction the signal is coming from.
As the name implies, multi-antenna detectors have more than one antenna. What is the advantage of this? Directional arrows. With multiple antennas oriented in different directions (typically one forward, one rear-facing). With the detector picking up signals in each antenna and the ability to determine signal strength between antennas, it is able to determine the direction of the signal. Why is this important? I have used the information to determine if I need to slow down (allegedly) for an upcoming police speed trap, or see if or when I have passed the radar signal. This will give me less time worrying about driving too slowly and getting back up to my preferred speed (legally, of course).
Radar Detector Key Features
Auto GPS Lockouts
Auto GPS lockouts on detectors use the GPS data to repeatedly recognize similar signals at the same locations. Over time, this will mute these signals that are deemed not to be speed traps, but other false alerts such as automatic door openers (commonly found in commercial stores). While it is possible to manually lockout these signals on many detectors, the automatic GPS lockouts take out any guesswork of potentially muting a signal that could be a legitimate police radar or speed trap. I have had an older Escort radar detector with this feature and it makes using the detectors for commuting much quieter and hassle-free.
Blind Spot Monitor (BSM) Filtering
On today’s roads, many modern cars have blind-spot monitoring systems and adaptive cruise control systems that rely on sending out radar signals to work. Now, detectors have to work harder to fight through the “noise” of so many radar signals to determine which is a potential police radar, and what is a car’s BSM system. “Filtering” software can help reduce false alerts. These typically work through recognizing the radar frequency and other data and automatically mute any signals within that frequency, such as 24.199 MHz. As these BSM systems become more common, this filtering technology is almost becoming a necessity to prevent your detector from going off with too many false alerts.
Most police radars typically use single continuous frequency radars. What does this mean? It means the radar is constantly operating at a safe frequency (example: 33.8 GHz). New MultaRadar technology used by some police departments varies the frequency used. Older detectors may not be capable of picking up these new MRCD radars but new detector technology and software allow them to pick up MRCD. This is why sometimes spending more money for a more capable detector is worth it in my opinion.
Most modern and capable detectors can range from $300 for a mid-range detector to more than $800 for a flagship detector. While it is possible to find cheaper detectors, I would not recommend them as they often lack the range, performance, and features that a modern detector requires to be effective against today’s law enforcement. Of course, you could just not speed, but that’s not why you’re reading this article.
You’ve got questions. The Drive has answers.
Q: Do radar detectors work for laser speed guns?
A: Simple answer: No. The longer explanation is that they can notify you when you are being hit with a laser gun, but by the time your detector is telling you this information, a police officer already has your speed. So it's fairly useless besides letting you know if you’re about to get a ticket. Ask me how I know.
Q: How far can a radar detector pick up a signal?
A: That depends. Factors such as terrain, trees, foliage, and weather can lead to variations from several miles to several hundred feet.
Q: Can I get a ticket for mounting a radar detector to my windshield?
A: Potentially. Some states (such as California) only allow small portions of the windshield where items can be mounted that might obscure your vision. I invested in a rearview mirror mount from a company called Blendmount that is not only a sturdier mounting option, but it also allows for a cleaner-looking, more permanent mounting solution.
Q: What is low-speed muting?
A: For city driving, you may not need to be alerted to radar signals if you are already going below a set speed. Some detectors have features that will mute all alerts under a speed you can set within the detector to help keep the detector quiet when it is not needed.
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